Alrighty, folks. This is one of those posts that I’m writing because I’m pretty sure it would come across too harsh via video.
This world is built on relationships – work, personal, internal. Without them our human species would flounder and fail.
Most of us find ourselves establishing relationships with conversations. Conversations at social outings, while our kids are playing soccer, or when we are working together on a project of some sort.
When you are trying to create a lasting relationship with someone else, there is true value in being authentic and showing some vulnerability. Showing some of your “cards” to those that aren’t expecting it can help break down walls and build trust. Expressing understanding when others are struggling is demonstrating empathy, which is key to relationships.
But there are a few boundary lines you don’t want to cross when you are starting a new relationship.
I’ve been around some individuals lately that continue to cross these lines, and I would like to remind us all to CUT IT OUT.
So… what are these lines and when do you shut your mouth?
Beware of the Over-Share
You know what I’m talking about here. We can ALL think of that person that got a bit too personal with us a bit TOO early in the relationship. Maybe you said ‘hi’ in the breakroom and she told you about her husband cheating, or maybe you were in line at the store and he shared every detail of his child’s medical and behavioral history with you.
You’ve been there, and you remember how trapped and awkward you felt while nodding politely. Remind yourself that you DO NOT want to be the person doing the oversharing. Instead, try to get to the point where you are each asking those deeper questions about each other, which indicates genuine interest in the answers.
Sharing before you’ve been asked is a slippery slope. Which brings me to the next invisible line…
Ask Open Ended Questions
I had a 2-hour dinner with someone about a month ago, and she found a way to talk about herself the WHOLE time. I’m pretty sure I know more than half of her life story, while she barely knows anything about me. At the end of the night, she told me that we should do it again.
Nah, I’m good.
Create space in the conversation for others. Ask questions that start with “How” or “What” or “Where” … instead of simple yes or no questions. Relationships are built on sharing and understanding, and you can’t understand someone else if you don’t ever close your mouth and listen to them.
If this is difficult for you, stop and ask a question every time you are tempted to talk about yourself. Try to provide space and silence for the quieter person to be able to reflect and share when they are comfortable. Don’t assume that all conversation breaks are bad.
Save the Drama for Your Mama
No one wants to hear your drama but your mother, your close friends, and your partners. In fact, even they are probably tired of your drama at times.
Don’t worry. I get it. I create A LOT of drama. Drama and I are besties. Ask my mom and my husband. They hear my drama quite often and probably wish they had a mute button for me.
But your drama does NOT belong in new acquaintance-type relationships, at work meetings or to gain sympathy from people you serve in a professional capacity.
If you make a mistake, just apologize and correct it. Avoid launching into a long sob story about your dog’s medical issue, late night with kids, or some other “woe is me” story. Using drama for excuses is a terrible habit to get into, and every one of us hates being on the receiving end of those drama-filled explanations. It puts the listener in a terrible position.
If you feel yourself start to slip past one of these lines and feel the relationship could be at risk, do one of 3 things:
- Apologize and ask if you all can “start over”
- Let the other person know you have this bad habit and are trying to get better at it
- Stop talking and pretend to either get a text/email/call, or simply run away! It’s better for people to think something like, “Wow she had to run in a hurry- I hope everything’s ok!” instead of, “This woman is the most annoying nut case and I cannot wait to end this conversation!”
I’ve been the nutcase many times, and it usually doesn’t end with a great relationship. In fact, it tends to end with no relationship at all. Learn from my mistakes, avoid the pitfalls mentioned above and you will be in a much better place to develop some new healthy and lasting relationships.